One of the NFL’s biggest weeks is here, and let’s begin with the Tyrod Taylor rumors right off the bat.
There’s smoke, fanned by friend and ProFootballtalk.com smoke signaler Mike Florio, because there’s fire. Multiple sources, including a team source, said in recent days that Taylor was going to be one of the quarterbacks the Dolphins would like as a replacement for Ryan Tannehill.
One source said Taylor is Miami’s lead candidate to be the bridge quarterback for the Dolphins in 2019.
There is at least another candidate but that one is still on a team as of this writing, although he is expected to be cut. (Don’t get excited, he’s not good).
The Dolphins are expected to cut Ryan Tannehill, who has been the starter since 2012 but has worn out his welcome because he has not lived up to expectations while his $26.6 million cap number for 2019 is unpalatable.
The NFL’s legal tampering period begins Monday, meaning NFL teams are able to enter into contract negotiations with agents of unrestricted free agents from other teams, although no deal can be signed until Wednesday’s start of the new league year.
It is likely the Dolphins will reach out to Taylor’s camp as early as Monday.
Taylor, 29, has started 46 career games, including 43 during three seasons in Buffalo, but has mostly been something of a journeyman with stops in Baltimore earlier in his career and Cleveland last season. Taylor has thrown 53 touchdowns and 20 interceptions during his career.
But don’t be fooled. Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over because he holds it. And holds it. And refuses to take chances.
He was sacked 124 times in 44 games with Buffalo and 13 times in four games with Cleveland last season.
By Wednesday clubs must be at or below the $188.2 million salary cap, meaning some teams will be making roster moves so they can be as competitive as possible for free agency.
Many teams have been busy making some of their roster moves ahead of this week and, yes, the Miami Dolphins have also done some of that work, cutting wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive end Andre Branch, offensive guard Ted Larsen and signing street free agent tight end Dwayne Allen.
But those moves will pale in comparison to the ones expected starting this week.
The Dolphins have about half a dozen meaningful roster decisions yet to make on players who were on the team in ‘18 — and we will cover some of those in the next few sentences — but an intriguing one that begs attention is about to play out with receiver DeVante Parker.
Parker is currently under team control for 2019 because the Dolphins have a $9.4 million fifth-year option on him. That option becomes fully guaranteed on Wednesday so the Dolphins must decide by then whether to do nothing and retain the player at that price or rescind the option.
Rescinding the team option wipes away $9.4 million from Miami’s cap but also allows Parker to become an unrestricted free agent.
And anyone with a functioning brain understands the Dolphins are not going to keep DeVante Parker for $9.4 million because he hasn’t played at that level at any point in his first four seasons.
But the Dolphins have seriously considered the possibility or retaining Parker for less. Much less.
The Dolphins can offer Parker a one-year contract that would be more cap friendly and allow the player to remain in Miami. That one-year contract offer could easily be in the $2 million-to-$3 million range and basically present Parker with a prove-it situation with the team that drafted him in 2015.
Taking such a tact would keep Parker in Miami for about one-third of the cost of the fifth-year option.
And why would Parker consider such a deal? Well, he might not get very much more in free agency. Indeed, it’s impossible to fathom a team giving Parker a lucrative three- or four-year deal based on his history.
Parker’s best deal in free agency is likely going to be a one-year prove-it deal anyway and if that is not already clear to him it soon might be.
A one-year deal would give Parker a chance to show his ability in 2019 and then get paid in 2020 if he produces. It’s a bet on himself.
And why might Parker be open to taking that deal in Miami? Because the environment is familiar, but the coaching staff is different. And perhaps the new coaches can get production out of Parker the old ones could not.
To be clear, whatever decision is made, the Dolphins will not keep Parker under the fifth-year option of $9.4 million. That would put Parker among the team’s five highest-paid players. And that’s no place for a receiver who caught 24 passes in 11 games, was injured (again) and scored only one touchdown for the second consecutive season.
So that would be not just poor cap and management, it would be dumb.
But keeping the 26-year-old for maybe one-third of that might be a long shot option.
About the other business that must be addressed:
The Dolphins are already approximately $21 million to $22 million under the salary cap so they don’t have to make cap-related roster moves to be cap compliant.
But some moves will be driven by stipulations in the contracts of certain players on the bubble.
If the Dolphins are going to cut offensive guard Josh Sittion as expected — they had not communicated to him their intentions as of Saturday — they must do so by Thursday because on that day Sitton is due a $2 million roster bonus. And the Dolphins are not expected to pay that.
Sitton, 33 in June, has already decided he wants to play in 2019 whether it’s for Miami or another team.
The Dolphins have until Friday to cut or trade defensive end Robert Quinn without paying him a $1.1 million roster bonus. As the veteran defensive end market already includes Cameron Wake and Justin Houston and the New England Patriots last week added Michael Bennett in a trade that is scheduled to go through on Wednesday, the Dolphins have not found many takers for Quinn, who they have been offering in trade.
Cutting Quinn before the end of the week will save Miami nearly $13 million in cap space.
Speaking of $13 million in cap space, the Dolphins could save at least that by cutting Tannehill this week. They could save $18.75 million if they designate the release as a post-June 1 transaction, but the savings would not show on Miami’s cap until after June 1.
There is no contractual reason the Dolphins must cut Tannehill this week.
But there are business reasons to do it if the team can find no willing taker in trade after offering the quarterback up the past few weeks:
The business reason is Tannehill deserves his freedom.
No, he did not meet the hope the organization placed in him when it drafted him in the first round of the 2012 draft. Tannehill was mostly a solid quarterback but not a consistently great or even good one.
Despite this, Tannehill was classy and a professional his entire Dolphins career. He worked hard. He played injured. He never complained.
He did everything that was asked of him off the football field.
And that deserves respect.
Keeping Tannehill around while rumors of a chase for his successor hit the press is not showing respect.
Tannehill might be done playing for the Dolphins, but the team should not leave him proverbially twisting just because it can. If the Dolphins are going to break ties with Tannehill this offseason, as everyone expects, it should happen as soon as possible to maximize his opportunity to find a new team.
Tannehill has certainly earned that courtesy.